Sick Around the World… How Does America Compare? (Watch Frontline Video)

What the US can learn from other nations about how to run health care.

Frontline special about health care in America vs other industrialized nations depicted in this logo: Sick Around the World plus a picture of a stethoscope.

GIVEN THE intent of President Obama and (most) Democrats in Congress to revamp America’s health care system, this is a good time to compare the U.S. system to the health care offered by other advanced nations to their citizens.

The most succinct and informative way to do this is to turn to former Washington Post health care correspondent and author, T.R. Reid. He set out on a global tour of hospitals and doctors’ offices with the aim of understanding how other industrialized nations provide affordable, effective universal health care.

The result of his investigation has manifested in three noteworthy products:

1. His book, The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care;

2. A 2008 Frontline documentary: Sick Around the World (see video below), which examines five other capitalist democracies, looking for lessons on health-care delivery; and

3. A recent Washington Post article that address the “five major myths” about other counties’ health care systems which I summarize here.

In the process of writing the Healing of America, Reid traveled to five capitalist, democratic countries that provide excellent health care to its people: Great Britain, Japan, Germany, Taiwan, and Switzerland (whose former system ten-plus years ago resembled that of the U.S.).

He found that all of these health care systems cost much less per capita than the US and yet have healthier people.  What’s more, in none of these countries does anybody go bankrupt due to health care expense.  Or lose health care insurance along with the loss of a job.

Instead, it’s clear that each system is superior, overall, to the U.S. This isn’t surprising given that health care in the US ranks well below those of the other industrialist nations.  This is a real eye-opener because it proves that low-cost, effective, ubiquitous health care for all is possible in America at lower cost and with better health outcomes.

America Has A Bit of Each Country

Mr. Reid’s summary is telling.  These foreign health systems are not so foreign after all, he says: In the U.S. the veterans have the health care system of Britain; the senior citizens have the care offered by Taiwan; employees with health care benefits mirror the German system; and for the tens of millions without health care insurance at all, they are just like the people of any poor country.

The Frontline videos (below) are very informative and thought provoking.  Moreover, they provide some great insights into other cultures and views about health and the State’s role.

For you health wonks, think about what you’ve learned after viewing the videos as you examine the three Congressional authorizing committee proposals offered by the Kaiser Family Foundation here.


Last Updated on March 16, 2020 by Joe Garma

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Joe Garma

I help people live with more vitality and strength. I'm a big believer in sustainability, and am a bit nutty about optimizing my diet, supplements, hormones and exercise. To get exclusive Updates, tips and be on your way to a stronger, more youthful body, join my weekly Newsletter. You can also find me on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.

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